“Such forces cannot be named, cannot be spoken, cannot be imagined except under a veil and a symbol, a symbol to the most of us appearing a quaint, poetic fancy, to some a foolish tale. But you and I, at all events, have known something of the terror that may dwell in the secret place of life, manifested under human flesh; that which is without form taking to itself a form.”
— Arthur Machen, “The Great God Pan”
Junji Ito, writer and artist for noted horror comics Uzumaki, Gyo, and Tomie, among others, is certainly no stranger to the idea of terror dwelling in the secret place of life, veiled behind a symbol. With Uzumaki in particular, Ito channels cosmic fear in a way that firmly places him alongside the likes of Arthur Machen and H.P Lovecraft. Uzumaki is centered around teenager Kirie Goshima, her boyfriend Shuichi Saito, and the spiral. It is this last element that ultimately makes Uzumaki so terrifying, because unlike most horror narratives, there is no tangible villain to put a face on, let alone battle, but a terror that is so ultimate that it must remain veiled behind a simple symbol.
One of the most well known comic styles has to be the Japanese tradition of manga, which was developed in the late 19th century. Manga is also one of the best examples of a fictional world.
While there are some comics that revolve around historical events, most manga actually take on some supernatural element. Naruto, for example, focuses around groups of ninjas that can use different techniques called “jutsu.” Some characters can breathe fireballs, others can shoot lightning; the better the ninja, the more skills they know how to do. Another well-known manga, Bleach, also has a supernatural element; the main character gains the power of a soul reaper and helps to guide departed souls to the afterlife while protecting humans against evil spirits.
While there are plenty of great manga books, there are also many strange ones. One of the main things when choosing what to read, so that you don’t end up with a strange one that you hate, is simply to do some research on it. Read the backs of the books, maybe do some internet research to see what the premise is and other reviews of the manga. Believe it or not, I do this for a lot of the books that I read, and it really does help to gauge how much I may or may not like the story.
Some manga that I personally like (I have a HUGE Excel spreadsheet full of them) are: Naruto, Ouran High School Host Club, Fruits Basket and Death Note. All of the ones listed have different aspects to them that I like, but they all have great concepts and amazing stories. Naruto is still an ongoing series, however, the other three are completed.
If you have a love of horror, one horror manga that I particularly like is Doubt. Doubt is a lot like the film “Saw,” except it actually has a storyline. The story revolves around a cellphone game “Rabbit Doubt.” The rules of the game state that players must find the wolf/killer among the group of rabbits as they’re killed one by one. Six players of this cellphone game are trapped in a building and must play a real-life game to find the wolf hiding among them before they are all killed. While some of the scenes/themes may be a bit cliche, this is probably one of my favorite comics that I’ve read.
Manga is a great way to explore new worlds. Sometimes it seems like manga has a stigma about it being only for people that want to dress up and cosplay. But really, manga has a lot of great concepts and interesting characters that can appeal to everyone. You just have to find the title that’s right for you. Until next time, happy reading!